Philly launches campaign to help lower high blood pressure rates among Black men

Philly skyline

The Philadelphia skyline is pictured in a file photo. (Danya Henninger/Billy Penn)

Philadelphia is kicking off a new effort to help fight what it calls a silent killer among Black men in the city: high blood pressure.

Among Black men living in Philly, 42% have high blood pressure, “a very high rate,” according to the city’s Acting Health Commissioner, Dr. Cheryl Bettigole.

The city’s new public health campaign is called “What’s your Pressure?” and is geared toward Black men ages 25 to 55. The campaign focuses on the personal stories of four Black men in Philadelphia who have dealt with hypertension and its health ramifications, and includes social media posts and live radio broadcasts from barbershops. The city is partnering with 15 barbershops in neighborhoods particularly affected by the issue to get the word out.

“I think people think of gun violence a lot because we hear about it a lot on the news, and it’s a catastrophe, it’s a public health crisis,” Bettigole said. Gun violence was the leading cause of death among young Black men in the city in 2020.

“But there is another public health crisis among Black men, and this is the early development of heart disease — and it’s very much preventable.”

Bettigole says the percentage of younger Black men who are hospitalized as a result of untreated high blood pressure is going up in Philadelphia. When left untreated, hypertension can lead to other health effects, including kidney disease, heart failure, and stroke — issues that can be prevented.

“We see hospitalizations for hypertension-related causes and cardiovascular causes in general rising among Black men in Philadelphia starting in their 30s,” she said. “So these are young men who think they are healthy and aren’t necessarily going to the doctor, and that’s who we are trying to reach.”

Broke in PhillyWHYY is one of over 20 news organizations producing Broke in Philly, a collaborative reporting project on solutions to poverty and the city’s push towards economic justice. Follow us at @BrokeInPhilly.

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